5 Tips for Managing Stress

Our lives are made up of many moving parts. Between balancing work, school, kids, current news events, partners, housework, traumatic events, planned or sudden changes, errands, moving, and more, daily routines and life can quickly generate a lot of stress. Establishing healthy and sustainable habits to manage stress is critical for maintaining good mental health.

Use These Grounding Techniques to Improve Your Mental Health

1. Use Breathing Exercises to Manage Stress

Physical health and mental health are inextricably linked. When you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, calming your body can go a long way to calm your mind. Practicing deep breathing exercises will reduce the activation of your sympathetic nervous system, lowering your body’s fight-or-flight response to a perceived threat. The next time you feel stress, follow these steps:

  1. Inhale deeply for five seconds
  2. Hold your breath for two seconds
  3. Exhale for five seconds
  4. Repeat as needed

2. Make Rest & Relaxation a Priority

Better mental health begins with good sleep. Sleep has a massive impact on every aspect of our lives, including attention, learning abilities, memory, and, yes, stress. While resting, your mind has time to recharge, regroup, and prepare to face the day. Use these tips to improve your rest and lower overall stress levels:

  • Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at the same time each day
  • Create a calm and quiet space to promote relaxation
  • Turn off electronic devices and screens approximately thirty minutes before bed
  • Use grounding techniques for relaxation as part of your nightly routine

3. Be Aware of Screen Time

Social media and text messages and breaking news, oh my! Screens have become ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives. While modern technology offers many benefits, constant information input can be a significant stressor. If you are experiencing more stress than usual, increased screen time may be the culprit. Try setting a time limit for interacting with online spaces and shift your focus to other grounding techniques, such as journaling or meditation.

4. Participate in Group Activities

Self-isolation can be a side effect of heightened stress but can often worsen your symptoms. Going out, interacting with people, or participating in activities might feel overwhelming, but it’s one of the best strategies for managing stress to improve mental health. Connecting with your community and participating in group events can refill your social well while moving your body, leading to improved physical, social, and mental health.

5. Recognize When You Require Professional Help

When stress tips over from a situational issue into a long-term problem, it can cause serious issues and disruptions in your daily life. When you are chronically stressed and typical grounding techniques are no longer working, it may be time to seek out professional help, as your stress could be a symptom of an underlying condition:

Psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals can create personalized plans for managing stress, design individualized grounding techniques, and provide a further diagnosis if needed.

West End Consultation is in Your Corner

If you suspect your stress is part of a larger disorder, West End Consultation is here to help. Our Board-Certified psychiatric professionals are trained to provide treatment and continuing support for our patients in the Twin Cities through personalized treatment plans and medication management. We are prepared to work with a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, OCD, and more. Contact us today for more stress management tips or to learn about our services and specialties. We’ll be in touch as soon as possible to provide your best low-stress solution.

6 Effective Tips for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes called SAD, is a form of depression with a seasonal component that begins and ends during a specific season. Mood changes are affected by decreased light in the fall and winter months, leading to symptoms similar to depression. Roughly 5% of Americans have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, and many remain undiagnosed. SAD is much more than the winter blues. It is a debilitating form of depression that can compromise how you feel during colder months when less sunlight is prevalent.

How Do I Know if I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Most people with SAD notice a change in mood and behavior in late fall or early winter, though some may have symptoms extend into the spring and summer months. As with any mental health condition, symptoms vary depending on the individual. Working with a licensed psychiatrist is the first step in diagnosing your disease. Common signs of seasonal affective disorder include:

  • Oversleeping or difficulty waking up
  • Nausea or changes in appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of energy
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Feeling depressed or hopeless
  • Social withdrawal

Suggestions for Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you believe you have seasonal affective disorder, it is essential to seek professional advice. A medical professional trained in diagnosing mental diseases can provide the guidance, therapy, and treatment you need to manage SAD properly. In addition to treatment, the following tips are designed to help manage the symptoms of SAD.


When managing stress and the onset of SAD symptoms, nothing beats exercise. Whether it’s a brisk walk outdoors, a light jog on the treadmill, or an intensive weightlifting session at the gym, exercise releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals within the brain to help improve mood and overall life satisfaction.

Get Good Sleep

Sleep is the body’s way of resetting itself each day. Sleep revitalizes the body and mind and helps the body heal and the mind process and store important memories. A routine must be established and followed to get the best possible sleep. Try to go to sleep and wake up simultaneously each day while allowing at least 7 hours of quality sleep. Ensuring your sleeping area is comfortable, slightly cool, and free of distractions will increase the likelihood of quality rest.

Laugh as Much as Possible

The adage “laughter is the best medicine” may be more accurate than previously supposed. In recent studies, laughter has been linked to brain process stimulation that helps to counter the adverse effects of the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder.

Load Up on Vitamin D

Humanity’s primary source of vitamin D is the sun. We are exposed to less sunlight during the winter since there are fewer daylight hours compared to the spring, summer, and fall. Since vitamin D is a feel-good chemical that supports increased emotional health and sharper thought processes, it is essential to supplement vitamin D during winter to counteract the lack of sun.

Eat Healthier

Eating healthy foods provides a building block for establishing good physical and mental health. High-quality fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and premium proteins provide significant energy sources that promote better mental health and overall well-being.

Consult a Licensed Therapist

If you are taking good care of yourself and following the tips outlined in this article and all else fails, please consult a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. We are here to support you through challenging periods in your life that are difficult, if not impossible, to navigate yourself successfully.

West End Consultation Group Provides the Support and Resources to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder

West End Consultation Group’s team of Board-Certified psychiatric professionals provides treatment and support to assist you in overcoming the challenges of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Meet our team of providers, check out our patient resources, or request an appointment today! Depression is a common but serious mental health condition. Please seek help immediately if you have overwhelming or persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

COVID Mental Health Series: Managing ADHD During COVID

Managing ADHD during COVID

As COVID restrictions and isolation strategies continue pushing past the half-year mark, we are only beginning to understand the overall impact of COVID on our mental health. While the impact of COVID on depression and anxiety may be more intuitive, the impact of COVID on those with other psychiatric concerns, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), may be just as profound. This brief article outlines just a few of the challenges that COVID presents to people with ADHD and some ways to potentially help navigate these challenges.

Changes and Challenges for people with ADHD during COVID

Workplace Changes:

One of the more dramatic changes that COVID has created has been the large-scale shift from office-based workplaces to work-at-home and hybrid work arrangements. Offices and other social work environments typically provide accountability and structure that help many people remain productive throughout the workday. Focusing on routine work tasks can become more challenging while sitting at a laptop with all the distractions of home. Offices can also provide the socially dynamic environment that can satisfy the need for more frequent social interactions. People who could previously rely on external forces and cues to help manage their time and productivity are now struggling to provide that structure for themselves – often while balancing their family and other responsibilities at the same time. For additional information about common symptoms of ADHD in adults – see the adult ADHD page here.

Social Changes:

The changes required by COVID guidelines around our social engagements has likely been just as significant as well. As people with ADHD typically have at least some inattentive symptoms, COVID restrictions may place additional challenges in cultivating and maintaining family and peer relationships while being unable to be physically present. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” may become painfully prominent in many of our relationships.

School Changes:

Since there is a strong genetic factor with ADHD, many adults struggling with ADHD may also have children with similar attention issues. Just as many adults rely on the structure and accountability of workplace environments, children and adolescents rely on the structure of a classroom and schools to keep progressing in their lessons and adhering to deadlines for assignments and test preparation. Shifting the responsibility of ensuring adherence to lessons from teachers to parents also places additional stressors on parents who are already struggling with their own challenges at work.

Compliance with Safety Recommendations

A recent study in the Leumit Health Services system published in the Journal of Attention Disorders suggested that untreated ADHD may contribute to behaviors that increase the risk of contracting COVID. The authors suggest that the inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive characteristics of ADHD could make it more difficult to be adherent to the safety recommendations of public health organizations. In this study, those with untreated ADHD were more likely to have positive COVID tests than the general population.  In contrast, elevated positive COVID test rates were not found for other major mental health concerns such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, or schizophrenia.[1]

So how can those with ADHD better cope with the challenges of COVID?

Here are some brief recommendations for starters:

  1. Follow a regular schedule: Try to maintain a schedule as close to your normal work and life routines as possible. Resist the temptation to allow work and life to become too enmeshed. Try going for a brief walk or quick drive before or after your workday so you can “arrive at work” or “come home from the office.” Continue to maintain the same professional dress that you would if going into the office and be diligent about tending to your normal sleep/wake cycle as well. Read our blog on sleep management.
  2. Use timers, lists, and reminders to your advantage: There are many digital apps available to help you utilize timers, lists, and schedules to aid adherence to your work and life commitments. The brief time invested in learning a new piece of technology can pay large dividends in the long run. One such example is the “Pomodoro” technique.
  3. Optimize physical spaces for productivity: Try to create a pleasant and clutter-free space that is dedicated to your work. Have everything you need for the day at hand, and very little else that you don’t. We may shape our environments, but then our environments shape us as well.
  4. Tend to physical health, exercise, and diet: Maintain a healthy diet and regular physical exercise. Some advance meal prep may go a long way in maintaining a healthy diet and reduce the tendency to snack throughout the day. Exercise and physical activity provide an important emotional boost as well.
  5. Schedule regular, socially distanced or digital social encounters: Try setting up a regular, recurring virtual coffee date with a friend or virtually invite friends or family to dinner or dessert. Sharing a meal has always been an important social event – Who says you need to be in the same physical space to share a meal?
  6. Keep multiple face masks and hand sanitizers near the doorways: Keep these in plain view as important reminders to maintain social distancing, wash your hands frequently (soap and water is best), and disinfect other frequently touched surfaces in the home. For the most up-to-date recommendations from the CDC – see this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
  7. Medication Management: If you are currently using medications to help manage your ADHD symptoms, it may be helpful to check in with your medication provider to see if an adjustment may be appropriate.

Medical Disclaimer:

Please remember that all medical information provided in this post must be considered educational only.  This blog should not be relied upon as a medical judgement and does not replace a medical professional’s judgement about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure or condition for a given patient.  We will do our best to provide you with information that may help you make your own health care decisions. Please do not follow any instructions or information without first consulting with your physician or mental health provider.

For additional information about mental health and COVID, see NAMI’s guide at https://www.nami.org/Support-Education/NAMI-HelpLine/COVID-19-Information-and-Resources


[1] Eugene Merzon et al. ADHD as a Risk Factor for Infection with COVID-19. Journal of Attention Disorders. July 22, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054720943271